The North Georgia wildfire isn’t only causing damage to the property in its path; it’s affecting our air quality as well. Over the past few weeks the Atlanta area has been filled with hazy-smoke tainted skies. Though it may not be as thick as it was earlier in the week, it’s still there and drawing major health concerns for the people in the area.
The wildfire has reached more than 23,300 acres, making it the largest wildfire in the South.
“This is the first time we’ve had forest fires that’s lead to all this smoke being in the atmosphere that’s affecting all of us” says Dr. Rabinowitz.
The EPA and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources have reported a Code Red air quality alert –meaning that the Atlanta area has reached an unhealthy level on the air quality index. Unhealthy air quality is when everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.
Here at Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Consultants, we’ve seen firsthand what this air is doing to people in the area. Within the past few weeks there has been an increase in patients coming in with respiratory-related problems –confirming that this wildfire and the air quality that it’s causing, should be taken seriously by everyone.
“This is like someone smoking cigarettes and blowing it in their face. Patients are coming in, they’re coughing, they’re wheezing, they’re having asthma exacerbations” Dr. Rabinowitz said.
It’s hard and the smoke smells funny. It makes it a little bit harder for everyone to breathe so there’s more coughing than usual and it isn’t even the only pollutant causing problems. “On top of the problem with the smoke, the pollen has not left the air. The ragweed that comes out in the fall usually disappears after the first freeze but we haven’t had the first freeze so the ragweed is still in the air. It usually clears out of the air when it rains but it hasn’t rained.” Rabinowitz said.
Suggestions for dealing with smoky conditions
The mixture of the ragweed and smoke is causing havoc and with no rain in sight it looks like we are in store for similar conditions for a while, so it’s best that everyone take preventative measures. Here are suggestions from Dr. Rabinowitz on being mindful during this time:
- When you’re driving use re-circulated air as opposed to fresh air. In this way you won’t constantly bring harmful particles from outside into the vehicle.
- Avoid outside activities until the fire and smoke goes away.
- Avoid heavy exertion.
- Close windows and use the air-conditioner.
How to deal with wildfire smoke if you have asthma
If you or your child have asthma, there are a few extra steps that you may want to take to ensure your safety.
- Change your clothes when you go indoors. Particles can get stuck in clothes and cause breathing problems.
- If rescue medicine is required more often than every four hours, medical attention should be sought out.
- Use the Google Crisis Map to see fires that are close to your area. There’s also a feature that breaks down air quality –this comes in handy a lot of the time since all smoke isn’t visible.
- Take your medications before you go outside instead of waiting for the symptoms to flare up just to minimize the impact of the haze.
- For those who do have inhalers and medications, make sure you have them in stock and that they are not out of date. You probably will be using a lot more of it in the upcoming days and you don’t want to be left without it.
- Wear an M95 mask. This mask protects against allergens and contaminants in the air.
It’s unsure how long the Atlanta area will be dealing with the effects of the North Georgia Wildfire so if you are having trouble breathing or want to take precautionary steps visit one of our five locations for consultation.